When one of Daniel Botelho’s images last appeared on this website it was a spectacular depiction of a giant mola mola, captured while searching for blue whales off San Diego. More recently the photographer traveled to a remote island off Mexico to photograph great white sharks without cage protection, and returned with a series of captivating images he hopes will help dispel perceptions of white sharks as blood-thirsty killers.
Daniel Botelho captured the accompanying images during a recent expedition to Mexico’s Guadalupe Island. He allowed their use with this story but the images are protected by copyright laws
Botelho was on an assignment for Disney but also served as safety diver during an odyssey to Guadalupe Island, during which passengers–only one at a time–were allowed to venture out of submerged cages and swim freely with full-grown white sharks.
“White sharks are like the Lion King,” the photographer states on his Facebook page. “Predators, yes, but not psychopathic man killers.”
Asked to provide more details, Botelho messaged back to say that he has been diving with white sharks since 2006, but this was his first time in the gin-clear waters of Guadalupe Island, which is located 165 miles west of Baja California.
Of his role as safety diver he said: “The safety diver is the guy that takes care of everybody in the water, a bodyguard of the guests, and that doesn’t mean to be brave; not at all, it is much more about keeping a relaxed and peaceful interaction with the animals.”
Three divers were outside of the cage at a time. Botelho, the expedition leader, and one guest. Botelho said he logged nearly 24 hours outside the cage during a two-week trip. He experienced no close calls with predators that can weigh up to 5,000 pounds and bite an elephant seal in half.
“The sharks are like dogs; you need to keep them calm,” he said. “As dogs, they can get excited with wrong moves and unstable attitudes, so the trick is to keep the right attitude, transmitting tranquility and peace to the animal, so it can come really close but not try to touch the diver.
“This is the definitive proof that great white sharks are not man-eaters; people can live and interact with great white sharks, as long as they have the understanding of how the animal reacts and how to build a positive interaction with this magnificent creature!”
White sharks are specialized feeders and do not regard humans as prey, and most attacks on humans occur at the surface and are believed to have been cases of mistaken identity.
Still, they’re wild and extremely powerful creatures, which is reason for pause when considering an out-of-cage experience.
Botelho said the divers sometimes had as many as six great whites around them at a time, all making close approaches, as if curious about the intruders.
“It was one of the best dives of my life and the experience as safety diver out of the cage was incredible,” Botelho said. “It is much more than just taking photos; I learned so much more about how to ‘read’ and interact with those apex predators.”
He labeled the 24 hours he logged outside of the cage during the final seven days of this odyssey as his own personal “Shark Week” and from now on for the photographer, the TV version will never quite compare.